Date set for Oldham’s town centre Metrolink line
Oldham’s town centre Metrolink line will be open by the end of January.
The new line has four new stops – Westwood, Oldham King Street, Oldham Central and Oldham Mumps, with the latter integrating tram and bus services and providing a new, free park and ride site for Metrolink passengers.
Last month, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) revealed that it was working to open the line early in the New Year – several months ahead of schedule.
TfGM can now reveal that, unless adverse wintry weather conditions affect progress, it is targeting Monday 27 January for the public launch.
Connecting the new line to the network will require a weeklong closure of the existing section between Central Park and Rochdale Railway Station, and that closure is scheduled to start on Saturday 18 January. Details of the accompanying replacement bus services will be provided early in the New Year.
The closure is essential as the existing track needs to be severed from the temporary line, which passes through the Oldham tunnels, and connected to a brand new alignment through the town centre.
When the track and overhead power lines have been connected, final testing will begin and this will be followed immediately by the start of passenger services.
Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee, said: “The arrival of Metrolink in Oldham has already been a huge success story – patronage is already double that of the former rail services – and we’re now in the final stages of completing the next chapter.
“The town centre line is a cornerstone in the rejuvenation of Oldham and has been the catalyst for some very exciting developments. I only hope the famous Oldham weather is kind enough for us to be able to get everything done in the timescales we’re working to.
“If it is and we are able to open the line at the end of January, it would be the third new Metrolink line in a row to arrive ahead of schedule – which, given the sheer scale of the work involved across the expansion, would be a truly remarkable achievement.”
Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, said: “Having our new Metrolink line open will mark an important new chapter in our history and this news is an excellent early Christmas present for the borough.
“Our wide-ranging regeneration plans are designed to transform what Oldham town centre offers for residents, business and visitors alike, and these will unashamedly capitalise on the arrival of the tram.
“We fully recognise that the construction process has been hard for many people - especially businesses. Councillors Dave Hibbert and Shoab Akhtar have worked in very difficult circumstances to support them through these works and we want to thank them all for their patience.
“The biggest infrastructure project in our history meant disruption was inevitable but once the final closure is complete, and the line opens, we hope people will recognise the bigger picture and the huge benefits of a tram system that will put Oldham back on the national and international transport infrastructure map.”
The Oldham Loop Line closed to train services in October 2009 for conversion to Metrolink. More than 1.2 million journeys were made on it in its last year as a rail line – compared to more than 2.5 million in its first full year as a tram line.
The existing, temporary route between the former rail station at Werneth and Oldham Mumps will be de-commissioned by the end of spring 2014.
That will see the platforms, platform equipment, ramps, overhead power lines, rails and sleepers removed and, where appropriate, retained for use elsewhere on the network. The tunnels will be secured at each opening to prevent trespass.